Babies to be allowed in Dublin City Council meetings

"We're just trying to make politics more family-friendly," says councillor Claire Byrne

Babies to be allowed in Dublin City Council meetings

City Hall. dublincity.ie

Dublin City Council is set to pass new proposals which will allow politicians to bring their small children to meetings. 

The council chamber in City Hall will also be outfitted with a breastfeeding and baby-changing area, while older children will be allowed to sit in the public gallery during meetings.

Green Party councillor Claire Byrne called the development "really progressive", telling Newstalk Breakfast:

"We're just trying to make politics more family-friendly. And also we're trying to get more women into politics so we need to introduce this sort of flexibility if we're to achieve this quota."

Byrne initially raised the issue after learning that she could not bring her three-month-old son to a meeting with residents at a local area office and that this was the case for all council meetings. She then submitted a motion to the protocol committee questioning the regulations, particularly for breastfeeding mothers.

"We don't get any maternity leave you see," Byrne explained. "So it makes it a bit more challenging for us when you're trying to raise a small child and still continue to do your work as a public representative.

"It's been quite a positive outcome. We were joking saying it would be brilliant if all our working groups were as effective and efficient as this one has been!"

Claire Byrne. Photo: Facebook

She continued:

"What's going before the committee next week is a proposal to create a parenting room in a relatively disused male toilet behind the chamber. So that will have changing facilities and feeding facilities, which is great.

"And that children will be allowed in if they are accompanied at all times by the councillor themselves or another designated guardian."

Byrne acknowledged concerns that children would cause disruption had been raised, but argued:

"I think you have to trust the parents and trust that we respect our colleagues and the chamber. If they're being disruptive, obviously we'll leave.

"I'm certainly getting to the point where bringing my child to meetings – that window is closing very rapidly.

"He's more mobile now, he's louder and he is becoming disruptive. But certainly I think in the earlier times, when you are breastfeeding, when they're a little bit quieter, just having the option to be able to do that is really progressive. It's a great step forward."

The councillor for the Pembroke-South Dock Ward concluded:

"We're not trying to use the chamber as a creche facility or a chamber facility at all...

"The fact that they're now going to provide a parenting room is great for that as well. It means you can leave and you'll have a quiet, safe place to go with the child to continue to feed or look after them, while also being close by enough to be able to vote if you need to vote as well. [It means you are] able to continue to do your role as an elected representative."